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Ritual Enclosure Sparks Controversy In Mahwah

Piping has been installed on some Mahwah utility poles. Photo Credit: Lauren Kidd Ferguson
Piping has been installed on some Mahwah utility poles. Photo Credit: Lauren Kidd Ferguson

MAHWAH, N.J. – The installation of a ritual enclosure called an eruv in Mahwah has sparked an online petition with about 550 signers who are worried about “illegal incursions” in the community.

The eruv’s perimeter is being marked by half-inch thick PVC piping on some utility poles in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River. 

Eruvs permit observant Jews, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews, to carry items such as house keys and prayer books and push strollers within the eruv’s boundaries on Shabbat, a day where carrying objects outside the home and all activities associated with work are prohibited for some sects.

The piping has been installed on utility poles on Saddle River Road, East Mahwah Road, Airmont Avenue, Masonicus Road and Sparrowbush Road.

“I live in this town and don't want to see it be destroyed like areas in Rockland. Also the school district needs to be protected,” wrote one signer of the “Protect the Quality of Our Community in Mahwah” petition.

Some towns in Rockland County have had issues with eroding school systems and tax bases.

The petition states: “Rockland Electric, without notification to Mahwah residents, permitted the use of public utility poles in our Township for the attachment of a religious article/symbol called an eruv used by the Hasidic sect. We must demand the removal of these eruvs in order to prevent further illegal incursions into our community.”

A Facebook group entitled “Mahwah Strong” was also created this week for residents to “voice their concerns over the installation of an Eruv and the impact it could have on our community,” according to its description.

The group had more than 1,700 members by Thursday evening and is “getting the knowledge out to the community to make sure everyone knows what’s going on,” Brett Coplin, one of the group’s administrators, told Daily Voice.

“This is not a religious thing … This isn’t an attack on Hasidics. This isn’t an attack on ultra-Orthodox. This is protecting our town from a group of people that have historically come into towns and taken over,” he said. “This is not anything new. A lot of us believe … that constructing this eruv coming through our town is the first step for that.”

Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet said the township was not notified that the pipes were being installed, and the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) granted permission for the pipes to be put on Orange and Rockland utility poles. He also said that because of federal lawsuits, the BPU and the utility company are obligated to allow the eruv markings.

“The administration believes that there are ways to prevent this from happening, and we are exploring every option to address this issue,” Laforet said.

“As a mayor, I am very conscious of doing all of our due diligence. This is a very sensitive issue,” he added.


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